Racism rife for NHS doctors

21 Jun 01
Combating racism in the medical profession should be a key performance indicator for NHS trusts, and chief executives should be held responsible if they fail, the King's Fund said this week.

22 June 2001

In a new book, the influential think-tank said doctors from black and Asian backgrounds experienced racism from their applications to medical school through to retirement.

Although 18.4% of medical and dental staff were Asian, only 8.9% were hospital consultants, whose appointment depends on the endorsement of other consultants. Many Asian doctors chose general practice because they could not breach this 'concrete ceiling'.

Many black and Asian doctors who stayed in hospital medicine were diverted into staff grades. More than 60% of doctors in these sub-consultant roles are from ethnic minorities, where they receive little respect, and less responsibility and lower pay than consultant colleagues.

In Racism in medicine, the King's Fund called on NHS managers to play a greater role in job selection.

'NHS managers must provide leadership. Chief executives should get together with their senior medical colleagues to set targets and monitor their outcomes,' said Naaz Coker, the King's Fund race and diversity director.

'The Department of Health must monitor the implementation of last year's Race Relations Amendment Act and ensure full compliance across the NHS. It must hold chief executives accountable for this.'

She added that racism included harassment and bullying as well as selective recruitment. 'It is a criminal waste of talent where people are denied opportunities in a profession where there is a serious shortage.'

Coker urged the medical royal colleges and the British Medical Association to take a lead in tackling the problem. She praised the Royal College of General Practitioners for its efforts. 'It is the one royal college that has begun to acknowledge that racism exists.'

Sir Donald Irvine, president of the General Medical Council, who has been locked in a war of words with the colleges and the BMA over checks on doctors' fitness to practice, said: 'All of us in the medical profession have a responsibility to tackle racism and pursue racial equality. Discrimination must have no place in medicine.'


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